February 9, 2016

Without Rand Paul It Isn’t a Debate, Trump or No Trump

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big news from last Thursday’s Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News was the absence of what Meghan Kelly called, “the elephant not in the room.” Thanks to the ongoing feud between her and front runner Donald Trump, the latter was not on the stage. In what was largely treated as a footnote, Rand Paul was.

Several media have asserted the debate was more substantive without Trump, the issues having more space in the absence of his overpowering personality and the likely attention that would have been paid to his controversial style. But it wasn’t Trump’s absence that made this debate more substantive. It was Rand Paul’s presence. Without him, the last spectacle wasn’t a debate at all.

Debate moderators are television people. They are interested in whatever makes the best television and gets the highest ratings. The debate moderators on Thursday, echoing the larger media narrative, continually pushed the establishment vs. anti-establishment theme. That’s certainly a phenomenon in this election cycle, but it really means nothing in terms of policy.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to determine the difference, if any, between the candidates seeking the presidency. Without Rand Paul, there isn’t a difference to determine, not even with Trump. Trumps style might be different, but he’s a lot more like an establishment Republican than the media narrative would have one believe.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

There is nothing new about the neoconservatives

nothing new

Robert Eno of Conservative Review named Rand Paul the “standout of the night” after the December 15 Republican Presidential Debate on CNN. Eno laments that the mainstream media, including “conservative media pundits,” will proclaim Rubio the winner. Eno implies these pundits aren’t true conservatives, referring to a species of unicorn sought by millions of self-identified conservative voters.

Rand Paul himself has called out Rubio and other proponents of the U.S. military empire as failing to adhere to authentic conservative principles. The self-named “neoconservatives,” we’re told, are really progressives in Republican clothing, failing to promote the true conservative principles of small government, free markets and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Rand is right about nonintervention, but he’s wrong about conservatism. There is nothing new about the neoconservatives. The essence of conservativism itself is belief in the need for an all-powerful government that regulates every area of life domestically and dominates every other nation in the world. This has been the conservative worldview for thousands of years. It has never changed.

Conservatives see the world as Thomas Hobbes did. Human nature is so depraved that the government must be powerful enough to “keep them in awe.” Like other enlightenment philosophers, Hobbes saw the relationship of nations to one another as virtually identical to the relationship between individual people. They are all in a de facto state of war unless one nation dominates the rest.

This explains the otherwise puzzling compulsion by generations of U.S. politicians to interfere in the affairs of destitute Third World countries thousands of miles away. Just as individual liberty within society is a threat to the commonwealth, self-determination by any individual nation is a threat to the world order. The “domino theory” offered as justification for the Korean and Viet Nam Wars was firmly rooted in Hobbesian conservatism. So was the British Empire.

Many conservatives would object and point to Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk as representing the true tenets of conservatism. There’s only one problem: Burke and Kirk agree with Hobbes on just about everything.

Hobbes, Burke and Kirk all deny the existence of natural, inalienable rights. Like Hobbes, Burke says that man in the state of nature “has a right to everything,” meaning there can be no rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Rather than “to secure these rights,” according to Burke, governments exist so “the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.”

The only disagreement between Hobbesian “centralizers” and Burkean “constitutionalists” is on how government power should be distributed. The Hobbesians believe the sovereign power can never be safely divided. It must reside in one place, preferably in one man. Hobbesians in American history include Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and George W. Bush.

The Burkeans believe the opposite. As the politicians have the same dark nature, they must be thwarted, too. Burkean conservatives in American history include John Adams, Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater.

Here’s the rub. While Burkean constitutional conservatives want power divided, they still believe 100% of the power resides somewhere in the government. If the federal government isn’t going to regulate a particular area of life, then the state or municipal government should. Or the town government. Or your local school board. No area of life remains unregulated.

Similarly, the two conservative camps have disagreements on foreign policy, but not on principle. “Old Right” conservatives like Robert Taft may have argued against war, but Taft’s chief argument against participation in NATO was his fear it would concentrate too much power in the executive, although he hints at the non-aggression principle in passing:

“Under the Monroe Doctrine we could change our policy at any time. We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine. Under the new pact the President can take us into war without Congress.”

Contrary to the beliefs of a lot of well-meaning people, individual liberty, limited government and free markets are the antithesis of conservatism and always have been. Mercantilism is the economic system of conservatism; empire its natural foreign policy.

The American Revolution was very much a libertarian revolution against a Hobbesian, mercantilist and militarist empire. The ensuing struggle between Federalists and Jeffersonians was likewise a struggle between conservatism and libertarianism, respectively.

As inconsistent as he sometimes was in practice, Jefferson’s thinking and writing remained consistent on this point throughout his life. He repeatedly cited the libertarian principle that government should “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free” in describing the limits of government power.

His foreign policy was mostly libertarian as well. Unlike President Obama, he really gutted the military, cutting its budget by over 90% and largely dismantling the navy (the army was already disbanded when he took office). His stated purpose was to make the navy a purely defensive force, incapable of foreign adventures.

Like millions of self-identified conservatives, Rand Paul is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He’s trying to see libertarianism as a subset of conservativism, just as Reagan did. It isn’t. It’s no surprise that even his attempt to portray himself as an authentic, Old Right conservative has failed. Trying to blend conservatism and libertarianism leads one into all sorts of self-contradictory positions.

It’s no coincidence that enthusiasm has peaked at those moments when Paul has taken the purely libertarian positions of his father, as he did filibustering drone strikes on American citizens or the Patriot Act. The marketplace of ideas is telling him something.

There is an intuitive libertarian instinct in everyone. The desire to live and let live and use force only in response to aggression is quite literally the “law of nature,” as Locke wrote over three hundred years ago. There are millions of Americans who believe it, but have it philosophically jumbled with the antithetical tenets of conservatism.

Rand Paul may be one of them. Or, he may believe the only way to make America more libertarian is by appealing to conservatives within the political process. Either way, he’s wrong.

Americans are starving for something besides conservatism or liberalism (as it’s defined today). A lot of them just don’t know it. Rand Paul could do the most good by taking his father’s ideas a step farther and rejecting conservatism altogether. It’s a dead end for the liberty movement, just as it always has been.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

San Bernardino and Paris Shootings the Latest Proof: Conventional War Does Nothing to Deter Terrorism

1st_Boston_Marathon_blast_seen_from_2nd_floor_and_a_half_block_awayMarcio Rubio is running a television commercial in which he says, “What happened in Paris could happen here.” He seemed prescient in retrospect following the tragedy in San Bernardino last week.

Whether radical Islamists want to kill us “because we let women drive,” as Rubio contends, or because of decades of nonstop political and military intervention in their countries is another story. Ultimately, one cannot solve this problem unless one understands what has caused it.

For the past fifteen years, the Unites States has tried to solve it with conventional warfare. It is accepted without question that, whatever else the intelligence community or other security apparatus are doing, waging conventional war on Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban or other Islamic paramilitary groups in the region is a necessary and effective way of deterring Islamic terrorism in the United States.

After fifteen years, it’s time to question that dubious assumption.

The answer has always been intuitive to me and I doubt I’m alone. Sending 140,000 soldiers to fight a conventional war in the Middle East does absolutely nothing to make it harder for two guys in Boston to bomb a foot race or a guy and his wife to shoot up a government building. How could it?

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

We Need to Really Gut the Military

cracked-american-flag-jpgU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday that Americans will be grappling with violent extremism for generations to come. If that feels like déjà vu, you’re not imagining things. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schisslersaid the same thing – in 2006.

Schissler was expressing concern at the time over wavering public support for a war that had already lasted longer than WWII. His concern was warranted. The Republican Party had just suffered a shellacking in the mid-term elections, largely due to public dissatisfaction with “neoconservative” foreign policy. They would lose the White House two years later for largely the same reasons.

American voters may have believed they “threw the bums out,” as Carroll Quigley might put it, but the foreign policy never changed. The Obama administration may have used different tactics, but it’s been even more interventionist than Bush’s. It’s certainly intervened in more countries.

Bush and the 2000s Republicans were called neoconservatives, but they weren’t. Their way of seeing the world is classic conservatism, straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes not only saw all individuals, but all nations, in a de facto state of war with each other, in the absence of some overwhelming external force “keeping them in awe.”

This was the inspiration for the British Empire, which sought to “civilize” the world by force of arms. It eventually bled itself dry, its biggest failures occurring on precisely the same ground the United States is bleeding on now.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Thought for the day: Why can’t the U.S. imitate Switzerland?

shutterstock_181475261-643x419Thought for the day: Here’s a compromise I’d be willing to make with the left on the USA imitating a European welfare state: We’d imitate Switzerland. That means:

  1. An extremely limited central government with very low central government taxation (about 11% of GDP)
  2. Each canton/state decides how generous its welfare benefits will be and taxes its citizens accordingly. There is no national health care or centrally-mandated benefits.
  3. Firearms are not only considered a right, but a responsibility (although we wouldn’t mandate militia service – we have plenty who would volunteer)
  4. Nonintervention in foreign affairs in the proud Swiss tradition that even WWII was unnecessary (which it was)

I think that’s fair. How about it, lefties?

*Photo by Orbex

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Afghanistan Now Another Korea: How Did American Taxpayers Become Financially Responsible for the Liberty and Security of Every Soul on the Planet?

anotherPresident Obama announced Thursday that the present deployment of 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan throughout the remainder of his term as president. The president cited the “safe haven” narrative to justify changing his former plan to withdraw from the war-torn nation in 2016.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama said. “Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be.”

A few days earlier, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley told Morning Joe, “I think Afghanistan, as long as we stick with them, and we continue with the current program, and continue to resource that appropriately, I think Afghanistan will turn out ok.” When asked what “Ok” means, Milley gave substantively the same answer.

This is important, because it attempts to establish that U.S. military operations in the Middle East are somehow protecting the lives, liberty or property of American taxpayers. Supposedly, having “safe haven” camps to train and “radicalize” new terrorists is an essential element in the ongoing jihad against the United States.

It’s a convenient story, but it isn’t remotely true. That terrorists need to be “radicalized” in overseas camps before they’ll commit terrorist attacks in America wasproven demonstrably false by the Tsarnaev brothers in 2012. U.S. authorities tried desperately to establish the elder Tsarnaev had joined a militant group in Dagestan before plotting to kill innocent people in Boston, but failed. It turned out he had been radicalized right here in the USA.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why Can’t Russia and China Help Police the World?

n-PUTIN-largePresident Obama today announced his administration’s reluctant agreement to work with Russia and Iran to defeat ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Middle East. This will no doubt be met with howls of “Weakness!” and “leading from behind” by Mr. Obama’s Republican detractors.

We may even hear the tired “appeasement” argument trotted out regarding both Russia’s and Iran’s supposed ambitions to expand their territories.

Republicans have consistently criticized Obama for not being aggressive enough on the world stage and for pulling back too early from Iraq and Afghanistan. With the emergence of ISIS, the GOP has seized the opportunity to quash more reasonable foreign policy positions from candidates like Rand Paul and push for sharper increases in military spending and even more aggressive foreign intervention.

The argument we hear repeatedly from Republican presidential candidates is that Obama has “eviscerated the military” and “led from behind.” If the United States is not “engaged” (i.e., bombing or invading) in all crises at all times in every part of the world, emerging powers like Russia or China are going to fill the resulting vacuum. That raises an obvious question:

So, what?

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What If Opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal Is All About Oil?

oil rigRepublicans jumped the shark last week in apoplectic frenzy after President Obama secured enough support in the Senate to ensure Congress will not block U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said it would lead to a “holocaust” and that the United States is “at existential risk.”

Rep. Steven King (R-IA) said the Iran nuclear deal represented “a seminal moment in the history of the world,” saying it “means to [sic] tens of millions of lives down the road.”

Marco Rubio said lifting the sanctions would allow Iran to bolster its defensive capabilities and “raise the price of us operating in the region,” apparently unaware of the millions of Americans who don’t want the U.S. military operating in the Middle East at all.

At the same time, CNN reported Iran plans to increase oil production as soon as possible after the sanctions are lifted, adding approximately 1.5 million more barrels per day to the world oil supply by the end of 2016.

Isn’t anyone even curious if there is a connection?

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Iran is giving up far more than the United States in nuclear deal

Iran Nuclear Deal Who Says WhatRepublicans in Congress are ramping up their rhetoric against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by President Obama. The president wants this deal badly enough to once again play fast and loose with the constitutional limits on executive power. The Republicans want to snuff the deal badly enough to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to incite opposition.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told Stuart Varney Thursday: “This is a treaty. The Constitution requires that a treaty have two thirds of those present concur, in the Senate, on ratification.”

He is right about that. The Constitution doesn’t say anything about “executive agreements.” Any international agreement negotiated by the president is either a treaty or unconstitutional. But then, Gohmert went on to make this ridiculous statement:

“There is a holocaust looming and we have an obligation to stop it and not play politics like this does. We can stop this if we call it what it is, call it a treaty and quit playing political games because Israel is at stake. They’re the Little Satan, but we are the Great Satan and this nation is at existential risk.”

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Washington’s Al Qaeda doesn’t exist and never did

al qaedaTAMPA, December 11, 2013 — For twelve years, the Bush and Obama Administrations have promoted a narrative about the War on Terror. It has changed slightly in superficial ways, as when President Obama gave it a new name, but the crux of the narrative has not changed. The United States is fighting a war against a worldwide terrorist organization called al-Qaeda, formerly headed by über-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Americans are led to believe that this organization has a single mission against the United States and is directed by a hierarchy of terrorist leaders, all reporting up to a senior command located somewhere in Afghanistan. Many of the lawmakers and cabinet personnel who promote this narrative likely believe it themselves, at least to some degree.

Washington sees al-Qaeda the way it sees itself, a centralized, top-down hierarchy with a chain of command reporting up from every corner of the earth. It makes for a good story, but it’s not even remotely true. Virtually every incident involving this fictional organization refutes the narrative.

Veteran reporter Eric Margolis never did. He’s been reporting on the true nature of the Islamic militant groups from the very beginning. He should know what he’s talking about. He was embedded in Afghanistan in the 1980’s when bin Laden and what is now Al Qaeda and the Taliban were U.S. allies, fighting the Soviet Union.

For what it’s worth, bin Laden and other Islamic militants apparently regarded Margolis’ reporting as accurate. He was named as one of a small group of reporters who “fairly and accurately reported on the region” in alleged Al Qaeda letters released last year. Commenting on that release in “Osama’s Almost Letter to Me,” Margolis wrote,

“Al-Qaida was not founded by Osama bin Laden, as many wrongly believe, but in the mid-1980’s in Peshawar, Pakistan, by a revolutionary scholar, Sheik Abdullah Azzam.

I know this because I interviewed Azzam numerous times at al-Qaida HQ in Peshawar while covering the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Azzam set up al-Qaida, which means “the base” in Arabic, to help CIA and Saudi-financed Arab volunteers going to fight in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. In those days, the west hailed them as “freedom fighters.”

Margolis goes on to report that neither Al Qaeda in Afghanistan nor the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11. Their raison d’etre is fighting foreign troops within their borders. When the invaders were Soviet, they fought the Soviets, using similar but updated tactics to those previously used against the British. When the invaders were American, they fought the Americans. That’s what they do. Thus Afghanistan’s ominous nickname, “Graveyard of Empires.”

According to this alternate narrative, the “extremists” in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 nor any tangible connection to the group that perpetrated the attacks. Those were mostly Saudi Arabian nationals who planned the attack in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid. The only thing the attackers had in common with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was hatred of the United States. But they hated the United States for different reasons.

The 9/11 attackers, being Saudi, most likely hated America for precisely the reason Osama bin Laden stated: U.S. bases in the Muslim holy land and (secondarily) its support for Israel. Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan hated America because the United States invaded, ignoring the Taliban’s quite reasonable request for the U.S. to produce evidence of bin Laden’s guilt before demanding his extradition.

What Washington is calling “Al Qaeda in Syria” is also a completely different group. They exist to overthrow the Assad regime. Since that regime is a longtime ally of Russia’s, the U.S. has actually supported these rebels, amidst heavy criticism from within Washington’s ranks that the Obama administration is supporting Al Qaeda. This was apparently confirmed when Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri.

However, the pledge of allegiance actually supports the alternative narrative, not Washington’s. It is apparent from the reports on the pledge that the Syrian group had no previous connection to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It came immediately following an announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq that al Nusra was part of its network.

The ISI is one of many militant groups that filled the vacuum left after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and which had no active presence before Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. ISI similarly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004 while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

According to The Telegraph’s April 10, 2013 report, Syria’s al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda,” al-Joulani (al Jawlani) was quick to clarify the relationship with ISI:

“We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement [the announcement by ISI]. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,” Jawlani said…We reassure our brothers in Syria that al-Nusra Front’s behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way,” he added.”

In other words, the Syrian rebel group al Nusra was a group organized around toppling the Assad regime in Syria. It pledged allegiance to what Washington calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” but which is really the ISI. The ISI in turn was a group organized to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, with the long term goal of establishing an Islamic state there after U.S. forces withdrew.

None of these groups were part of a worldwide, centralized organization to fight the “Great Satan.” Instead, they are all disparate groups which formed for different, localized reasons and discovered after the fact that they all had a common enemy, the United States. The one exception to this is the group in Syria, whose western, industrialized enemy is Russia. That is why “al Qaeda in Syria” has sought to work with the United States instead of fight against it. The United States is useful in its goal of toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

All of this leads to one, inescapable conclusion. The United States has accomplished nothing in twelve years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq War actually expanded the presence of Islamic militant groups and led to a fundamentalist Islamic state there, with strong ties to Iran.

Rather than waging a war against a centralized, top-down organization with divisions in several Middle Eastern countries and agents embedded all over the world, Washington is actually playing a deadly game of “whack a mole,” with new moles popping up out of new holes every time Washington swings its mallet.

That means that triumphant announcements about killing “the number three man in Al Qaeda” mean absolutely nothing. That Al Qaeda hierarchy doesn’t exist. Instead, independent groups all over the world discover a kinship with each other all centered around one phenomenon: U.S. intervention in their nations. Intervention could be military, covert or merely aid to a local dictator.

Iranian militants hate America because the CIA helped overthrow their democratically-elected government in 1953 and then maintained the hated Shah as dictator there for almost three decades afterwards.

Militant groups in Saudi Arabia hate America for maintaining the Kingdom of Saud and for the additional insult of previously garrisoning troops in their holy land.

Militant groups in Iraq hate America for first supporting Saddam Hussein over the wishes of the Shiite majority and then destroying their country when Hussein became troublesome for the United States.

Militant groups in Afghanistan hate America merely because they are the latest western empire to invade their homeland. It will soon be apparent that they have expelled the United States the same way they did the Soviet and British empires.

The Tsarnaev brothers took direction from no one overseas. They just dreamed up their horrible crime and executed it. Their stated reason? U.S. military interventions in the Middle East.

That doesn’t mean the terrorists are justified. If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, no reasonable person would conclude that she “hated her husband for his freedom.” Acknowledging that cheating on her was the reason she shot him is not the same as condoning the murder. If she confesses to the murder and states her motive, nobody questions it.

Given the complete failure to accomplish anything in twelve years of war, the true, decentralized nature of the various Islamist groups and the likelihood that new ones will emerge wherever Washington intervenes, nonintervention seems to be the only effective way for Washington to reduce the risk of terrorism in the United States.

Washington should have learned this from the Cold War. Wherever nations succeeded in establishing communism, including in Viet Nam after the U.S. withdrawal, communism eventually died of natural causes. The only places it still exists is Cuba and North Korea, both still under siege by the U.S. military. The U.S. military presence in and sanctions on both countries have kept communist regimes in power long after their shelf life, solely because the people rally around their leaders in the face of a foreign threat.

History is repeating itself. Islamic fundamentalism is the new communism. The difference is that the U.S. is no longer capable of squandering its resources for decades whacking moles. It’s time to start playing the game smart, before America loses it for good.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.